Overnight Defense: Sparks fly over NBC nuke report | Trump denies wanting tenfold increase in arsenal | Mattis calls report 'irresponsible' | USS McCain officers fired after deadly collision

Overnight Defense: Sparks fly over NBC nuke report | Trump denies wanting tenfold increase in arsenal | Mattis calls report 'irresponsible' | USS McCain officers fired after deadly collision
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THE TOPLINE: Did President Trump want a tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal?

NBC News reported Wednesday that Trump brought up the prospect during his July meeting at the Pentagon -- the same meeting that reportedly prompted Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE to call Trump a "moron."

But Trump and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE strongly pushed back on the report.

"Recent reports that the President called for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal are absolutely false. This kind of erroneous reporting is irresponsible," Mattis said in a statement.

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According to NBC News, which cited three unnamed officials in the room at the meeting, said he wanted more nuclear weapons when he was shown a slide on the history of the U.S. and Russian nuclear capabilities.

The slide showed the United States' stockpile peaked at about 32,000 in the 1960s, and Trump said he wants that many now, according to NBC. That's compared to the about 4,000 the United States has now.

The Hill's Avery Anapol has more about the NBC report here.

And The Hill's Ellen Mitchell has more about Mattis' pushback here.

 

TRUMP SAYS PRESS 'DISGUSTING': Trump responded to the report by saying that it's "disgusting" that the press can "write whatever it wants to write."

Via The Hill's Jonathan Easley:

Trump called the report "fake news" and said a ten-fold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal would be "totally unnecessary" and that he merely wants U.S. weapons programs to be in "tip top shape."

"It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write," Trump said.

When asked, he said "no," he would not seek to limit what the press writes.

Read the rest here.

Trump's tweet also sparked bipartisan backlash. More on that here from The Hill's Harper Neidig.

 

ROYCE RENEWS CALL TO 'ENFORCE THE HELL' OUT OF IRAN DEAL: With the certification deadline on the Iran nuclear deal looming, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) reiterated that he thinks the United States should vigorously enforce it, rather than pull out.

"As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it," Royce said at the top of a committee hearing on Iran.

Royce has made similar comments in interviews in recent weeks. But his latest remarks come as a deadline approaches for Trump to tell Congress whether Iran remains in compliance with the deal and whether the deal remains in the national interest of the U.S.

Under a law passed by Congress in 2015, the president must make such a certification every 90 days. The next deadline is Sunday. 

Read more here.

 

USS MCCAIN'S TOP OFFICERS RELIEVED: The commanding officer and the executive officer of the USS John S. McCain have been relieved from duty after the "preventable" August accident that killed 10 sailors, the 7th Fleet announced early Wednesday.

"While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship's training program," the 7th Fleet said Wednesday.

The commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, was reassigned to Naval Forces Japan. The executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, was reassigned to Ship Repair Facility Yokosuka.

Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, former commanding officer of USS McCampbell, assumed duties as acting commanding officer of the McCain. Lt. Cmdr. Ray Ball, chief engineer of USS Antietam, will assume duties as acting executive officer.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

The Foreign Affairs Committee will mark up legislation, including an Iran sanctions bill, at 9:30 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. http://bit.ly/2xZaLJn

The House Veterans Affairs Committee will mark up pending legislation at 10 a.m. at the Cannon House Office Building, room 334. http://bit.ly/2yMIUeP

A House Homeland Security Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on North Korea at 2 p.m. at the House Capitol Visitor Center, room 210. http://bit.ly/2yNbVaa

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: US warship sails near islands claimed by China, angering Beijing: report

-- The Hill: US flies bombers over Korean Peninsula in show of force

-- The Hill: Opinion: North Korean missile attack is a clear and present danger to us all

-- The Hill: Opinion: Words matter, and Trump's may mean war

-- Associated Press: US rules out negotiated Islamic State withdrawal from Syria's Raqqa

-- Military Times: House Democrats push for more VA support to deported veterans

 

Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com, and Ellen Mitchell, emitchell@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@Rebecca_H_K@EllenMitchell23